Cowries, the shells of a mulluscs, were a popular form of currency for many years. Bronze and copper cowrie imitations were manufactured by China at the end of the Stone Age and can be considered some of the earliest forms of metal coins. Pictured on the left are circa 1000BC gold cowrie coins.
Metal ‘tool’ money, such as knife and spade shaped monies, was also used in China. These early metal monies developed into primitive versions of round coins. Pictured on the right are ancient Chinese knife moneys. The Chinese also used leather strips with text as money, moving close to the first paper bills.